Roman Polanski, by his own admission, committed just about the worst type of rape of a child there is. Read the grand jury account, which is pretty graphic, and you’ll be left in no doubt.

I usually take the view that there is an absurd level of hysteria about sexual offences generally, and child sexual abuse in particular. The robust attitude of the complainant in the case is impressive:

“I think he’s sorry, I think he knows it was wrong. I don’t think he’s a danger to society. I don’t think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out ever – besides me – and accused him of anything. It was 30 years ago now. It’s an unpleasant memory … (but) I can live with it.”

There are also certain ‘due process’ concerns relating to the conduct of the judge and the prosecutor in the original trial.

Nevertheless, I cannot understand the response of so many European politicians and public figures to this man’s arrest, pending deportation:

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner called the detention of the film-maker – a French citizen – in Switzerland a “bit sinister”.

Culture minister Frederic Mitterrand said President Sarkozy was following the case “with great attention”.

Mr Mitterrand also told France-Inter radio that he and the Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski have written to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and said there could be a decision as early as Monday if a Swiss court accepts bail.

And British novelist Robert Harris described the arrest as “disgusting treatment”.

It may be that Polanski successfully challenges the charges when he arrives in the United States. No doubt, he has a decent run. Nevertheless, the mere fact that he has successfully avoided punishment for thirty years, by fleeing from justice, is a pretty weak defence. I’m unimpressed to see it being advanced, explicitly or by implication.

Even less impressive, however, is this account by Nick Cohen of the indulgence shown to this child rapist by our own libel judges:

My incomplete files include the case of Roman Polanski, whom the Law Lords allowed to sue in London, even though he could not appear in person at the High Court because he had fled to France from America in 1978 to escape charges of having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. The indulgent judges allowed a fugitive from child abuse allegations to escape the indignity of being arrested and deported by the British police and said he could deliver his evidence via a video link instead. (He duly won a wad of damages.)

That, perhaps, is a different issue altogether.

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